Richard Greene

Richard Greene has a special place in the medical history of Newmarket, since it’s quite likely that he was the first person based in the town to derive his income primarily from medical services (although it’s possible the family had a medical repertoire going back a bit further – see further comments below and on the page about the Greenes). His practice would have spanned the latter part of the 16th and early 17th centuries, a time when the town was starting to become large enough to support a resident medic and when such medics were starting to become more widely used. Before the 17th century Newmarket was very small, probably served by visiting medics like Henry Veesy (see the page on Henry Veesys etc. for further discussion on this).

The 1615 archdeacon's transcript of Newmarket All Saint's showing Richard Greene's burial (see below or click image for source and acknowledgements etc., ref. Image 1).

The 1615 archdeacon’s transcript of Newmarket All Saint’s showing Richard Greene’s burial (see below or click image for source and acknowledgements etc., ref. Image 1).

The chapel of All Saints’ burial records from 1615 note Richard Greene’s occupation as ‘chirurgian’, meaning surgeon (see image on the right). It was very unusual for someone’s occupation to be mentioned in church records of this period, as can be seen here (he’s the only one on this sheet with their role recorded). So clearly his occupation was regarded as significant enough to merit recording, and he was essentially seen as a medic. The term ‘chirurgian’ could mean that he was a barber-surgeon, but more likely he was a surgeon-(physician/apothecary), since he appears to have been the first in a family of surgeons and apothecaries who provided medical services to the population of Newmarket throughout the 17th century (again see The Greenes). His apparent younger brother Robert Greene was both medical and surgical, so Richard probably had a medicinal as well as surgical repertoire too. It’s also of note however that their apparent father was a grocer, which is very interesting given the connection between grocers and apothecaries, for example with Henry Veesy mentioned above, who had earlier Newmarket connections. So it’s possible that Richard and Robert’s father had a medical repertoire too, at least in part? It was quite normal for medics who were essentially general medical practitioners like this to call themselves ‘surgeons’ right up until the early 20th century, and it was the usual term for them in the 19th century, hence GP surgery (see The history of medical treatments, training, qualifications and regulation for more detail on barber-surgeons, surgeon-apothecaries, use of the word ‘physician’ and the evolution of general practice etc.).

The Grene/Greene/Green family appear to have been in Newmarket at least as far back as the 15th century (again see The Greenes for more detail). Richard was probably born in the late 1550s or early 1560s – no Newmarket baptismal records survive that far back (from 1567 onwards patchy contemporary transcripts survive that were sent to the Archdeacon of Sudbury each year, like the one above, but nothing from the original registers survives before the 1630s). So he likely would have been in practice from about 1580. Probably he’s the Richard Grene junior first mentioned in the Newmarket Manorial records in 1580, later simply referred to as Richard Greene after Richard senior ceases to be mentioned (his apparent father, who died in 1885/6 – see the Greenes). Richard junior no doubt would have worked alongside his younger medical brother Robert from the late 1580s until his death shown above in 1615, after which Robert would have continued the Greene family practice.


Image sources and acknowledgements:-

Image 1: 1615 Newmarket All Saints’ archdeacon’s transcripts (crops with red annotations mine); image ©, reproduced with kind permission of the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds.

Note: see comments regarding images and copyright © etc. on the Usage &c. page as well. 

Relevant references in chronological order

1569, 24th December: Robart son of Richard Grene baptised, ‘The register of Newmarkett’. Reference: J502/2, microfilm of archdeacon’s transcripts, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).

1572, 20th March: Thomas son of Richard Grene baptised, ‘The register of Newmarkett’. Reference: J502/2, microfilm of archdeacon’s transcripts, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).

1589: Law suit in the High Court of Chancery brought by Henry, Robert, Thomas and Haggas Grene, the children of Richard Grene, a grocer, who had died three or four years earlier, whose wife was called Margaret(t), and who had another son Richard (apparently older), both mentioned in the documents. Reference: The National Archives, Greene v Goodwyn, Plaintiffs: Henry Greene, Robert Greene, Thomas Greene… C 2/Eliz/G5/44, (see [Note: I originally referenced this to Hoare JP. The History of Newmarket and Annals of the Turf. Vol 1. London: AH Baily and Co.; 1886;1:123-124 (referenced to Chancery Proceedings, Elizabeth, G. g. No 44. ms., P.R.O.), but subsequently have kindly been provided with a transcript of the original document by Rachel Wood, which provided the details regarding Richard Grene senior’s approximate date of death, his occupation, his wife’s name Margaret, and that he had an extra son Richard, none of which JP Hoare mentions.]

1615, 15th October: Richard Greene Chirurgian buried, the chapel of all Saints, Newmarket. Reference: Archdeacon’s transcripts, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: see image above.]

Some other sources consulted include:-

Newmarket manorial records. Reference: 1476/2-6 and 359/4-8, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).

May P. The changing face of Newmarket 1600 – 1760. Peter May Publications; 1984. [Note: see comments regarding this and other Peter May material on The Greenes page.]

Mortimer I. Introduction. A Directory of Medical Personnel Qualified and Practising in the Diocese of Canterbury, circa 1560-1730. PAPER No. 021. (accessed 10th January 2015).

The research notes of Peter May. Reference: HD1584, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: see comments regarding this and other Peter May material on The Greenes page.]

Note: For published material referenced on this website see the ‘Acknowledgements for resources of published material’ section on the ‘Usage &c.’ page. The sources used for original unpublished documents are noted after each individual reference. Any census records are referenced directly to The National Archives, since images of these are so ubiquitous on microfilm and as digital images that they almost function like published works. Census records are covered by the ‘Open Government Licence’ as should be other such public records (see the ‘Copyright and related issues’ section on the ‘Usage &c.’ page for which references constitute public records, and any other copyright issues more generally such as fair dealing/use etc.).